Mexican cuisine ranks second among the Top 10 most popular ethnic cuisines according to Technomic.


Adventurous foodies

Another group driving interest in Hispanic-themed products are “ethnic explorers” — consumers who like a variety of global flavors in their foods but who often purchase different items than native Hispanic households, according to Nielsen Perishables Group research supplied by the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association.

America’s diverse population exposes consumers to different cuisines and new flavors, and they like to try new foods. Seventy-seven percent of Americans eat ethnic foods while dining out at least once a month, and more than one-third order ethnic food weekly, according to Technomic.

The Chicago-based research firm recently compiled a list of the most popular ethnic cuisines for Parade Magazine. Mexican cuisine was second among the Top 10 most popular at 74%, joining Chinese and Italian cuisine in the Top Three. However, what is considered an ethnic food is different for different people.

“Along with Italian and Chinese food, Mexican food is one of the three main cuisines that are simultaneously ethnic and mainstream for the American consumer,” Mr. Arellano said.

Oftentimes, consumer interest depends on geography. Typically, the Western region of the U.S. boasts the highest tortilla dollar sales. In 2013, 34% more tortillas were sold, totaling more than $4 billion. Sales in the South Central region came in second with 29% of the market.

However, as testament to the growth of the industry in regions like the Northeast, TIA is hosting its 2015 Tech Seminar at Harrah’s Waterfront Resort Casino in Atlantic City, NJ, October 21-22. This is the association’s first-ever East Coast event.

Wrapping up

In the race to meet ever-changing consumer demands, tortillas seem to be keeping pace. “La Tortilla Factory has been committed to flavored wraps and health-­conscious tortilla options for 20 years now,” Mr. Tamayo said. “Keeping flavors or seasoning blends relevant to changing consumer taste profiles is part of the ongoing effort.”

Manufacturers continue to listen to their customers and provide products that offer a variety of fresh, flavorful products that are healthy and versatile for busy lifestyles.

“We like to listen to the chefs who use our products, and they tell us what they need and for what,” Mr. Nin said. “We are always trying to accommodate our chefs’ requests. We get calls daily from people looking for our fried 13-oz bagged chips, which I would say is a consumer favorite.”

Azteca Foods differentiates its tortillas by marketing from a healthier platform anchored by their no-­preservative offerings sold in the refrigerated section.

“Innovation at Azteca is about delivering flavorful and healthier products to the consumer,” Ms. Nargang said. “We target the primary grocery shopper, usually married with kids, working and extremely busy. She uses cooking dinner at home as a way to connect with her family and be creative, while seeking healthier options.”

Mr. Kabbani speculated that there is opportunity for future growth potential for American tortilla producers in exports to Europe, the Middle East and Asia. However, he went on to add, “The U.S. market for tortillas is far from saturated, as consumers continue to adopt them as a main staple to their diets.”

Whether it’s used for a quesadilla, sandwich wrap or eaten plain, tortillas are the one food for many purposes in the American kitchen.